Cecil Joseph Abson was a goods porter at Woodlesford in the 1930s, that is until life got too much for him and he absconded with cash from the station safe and some stolen tickets. He was found by the police several days later at Southampton claiming not to know how he got there.
The story of his downfall in the summer of 1937 is recorded below in a report from the front page of the Wakefield Express. An affidavit about the incident sworn by station master Robert Harold Roberts is also reproduced in full taken from a carbon copy of the original which was kept by his son Cyril.
Abson was born in Tadcaster in October 1913, the second of six children. Records indicate his father was an assistant brewer, Cecil John Abson, and his mother was Clara Joel. They married in Tadcaster in 1911.
Despite his downfall and appearance in court Cecil Joseph appears to have mended his ways because he joined the army in the Second World War, serving in Hong Kong as a Lance Corporal with the Royal Army Service Corps. Unfortunately his luck ran out again when he was captured by the Japanese and taken to one of their notorious prisoner of war camps at Tamano on the Japanese mainland, not far from Hiroshima.
Despite being close to one of the nuclear explosions in 1945 he appears to have survived and was rescued by American troops in September that year. He died in the Basford district of Nottingham in 1975.
THEFT FROM WOODLESFORD STATION
RAILWAY PORTER FOUND AT SOUTHAMPTON
Wakefield Express, Saturday 21 August 1937
How a railway porter was found in a state of collapse at Southampton after stealing money and other property belonging to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company while employed by them at Woodlesford station, was described at the Leeds West Riding Court on Tuesday, when Cecil Joseph Abson, 23, of Thwaite Gate, Hunslet, was put on probation for two years. Abson pleaded guilty.
Prosecuting on behalf of the railway company, Mr. F. B. Stableford said that on Sunday July 25th, Abson was the only porter on duty at Woodlesford. During the morning he went to the station master’s house and borrowed a bunch of keys, saying he had locked himself out of the booking office.
Among the bunch was a key to the safe. During the afternoon the station master went to the office and found a letter addressed to him from Abson, in which he admitted taking £4.8s from the safe, as money due to him in respect of two weeks’ wages.
“I have finished as the company’s servant, continued the letter, and am going to start a new life, as the life I have had while being in Leeds has been almost unbearable, and I have stuck it as long as I can. What with my luck and home life, everything goes wrong I am sorry to have to leave you like this but I cannot face it any longer. Thanking you for your trust in me while I was here.”
By leaving without notice, Mr. Stableford continued, Abson automatically discharged himself. He actually had been entitled to £2.6.5d wages for the previous week.
Robert Harold Roberts, the station master, said if Abson had wanted he could have taken more money, because there was about £12 in the safe. The amount missing was £4.7.6d.
Detective Sergeant Stephenson said Abson was found in Southampton, in a more or less unconscious state, and was taken to hospital there. When witness took charge of him at Southampton, Abson said, “I do not remember what has happened since I took the money.”
Abson asked the bench to take into consideration charges of stealing travelling tickets, six towels, a ledger and sheets of carbon paper.
Mr. Stableford said that about 18 months ago Abson was knocked from his bicycle and suffered some head injury, for which he was treated in hospital. The Chairman (Mr. T. Thomas) said some of the money might have belonged to Abson, but he had not gone the right way about obtaining it. The company had not pressed the case against him, and the bench were sympathetic.
Affidavit signed by Robert Harold Roberts.
I am a station master in the service of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company at Woodlesford, near Leeds.
I reside at the station house, Woodlesford. My duties include the supervision of staff, accounts, etc., at Woodlesford London Midland and Scottish Railway Station, including the goods depot and sidings. I pay all the staff and their wages due every Friday.
On Friday, the 23rd of July 1937, I paid goods porter Cecil Joseph Abson, employed by the company at Woodlesford goods depot, his wages £2.10.5d., for week ending Saturday, the 17th of July, 1937.
His next wage £2.1.8d., for work performed during the week ending Saturday, the 24th July 1937, was due to be paid to him on Friday, the 30th of July 1937. In the ordinary course he would draw £2.6.5d., for week ending 31st July 1937 on Friday, the 6th of August, 1937, which includes 4/9 for time worked on Sunday, the 25th of July 1937 and £2.1.8d., for the six days of his Annual Leave, ie. from the 26th of July 1937 to 31st July, 1937, inclusive. Therefore his credit for time actually worked up to and including Sunday, the 25th of July 1937 was £2.6.5d.
At 7am on Sunday, the 25th July, 1937, Abson booked on duty at Woodlesford station for passenger station duty, which includes attention to trains, parcel traffic, booking of passengers, collection of tickets from persons arriving at the station, etc. He was in possession of £1.0.0d. floating cash for use as change but is not entitled to open the office safe, without I am present or in my absence one of the booking clerks deputised by me.
About 10.45am on that date, I was in bed at my home when I heard my wife shout from the kitchen: “Can Abson borrow your keys to get into the office as he has locked himself out?” My keys, which included the office door key, the office safe key and others, on a ring were in my trousers pocket in the bedroom. My daughter took them downstairs.
I shouted, loud enough for Abson to hear to “Bring the keys back straight away.”
About five or ten minutes later, my daughter brought me the keys back. They were all intact. About 11.20am same day, I was in bed when my daughter brought me Abson’s keys which had been issued to him for use at the station. These keys did not include a key of the office safe.
About 2.30pm same date, I had reason to go on to the station and went into my office. There were several letters on my office table for attention, which I scanned to see if any referred to urgent matters and found one addressed to me, marked “Private.”
I opened it and found it contained a letter which I produce and which reads as follows:
You will find I have taken £4.8.0d. from the safe. Money due to me in respect of two weeks wage as I have finished as a company servant, and I’m going away to start a new life as the life of I have had while being in Leeds has been almost unbearable and I have stuck it as long as I can watch with my luck and home life everything goes wrong.
I am sorry to have to leave you like this but I can’t face it any longer. Thanking you for your trust in me while I was here. Yours faithfully, C. J. Abson.”
I opened the office safe and checked all the cash therein and also the cash in the cash drawer, and found a deficiency all £4.7.6d., from the cash in the safe. I advised the company’s police by telephone.
On Monday, the 26th of July 1937, I checked the stock of tickets on hand at the Woodlesford station and discovered that two blank card or privilege tickets, third class returns numbered 1917 and 1918, were missing from the centre of 16 tickets numbered 1908 to 1924 concurrently. The said tickets are valued at one penny each, and are the property of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company. No person had any right to take them away. Abson would have access to the said tickets on Sunday, the 25th July 1937.
Signed Robert Harold Roberts.